from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast
Central Judicial District, the Honorable John A. Thelen,
Timothy C. Lamb, Grand Forks, N.D., for plaintiff and
L. Johnston, Grand Forks, N.D., for defendant and appellee;
submitted on brief.
1] Alexander Ferguson appeals from a fourth amended judgment
increasing his child support obligation. We conclude the
district court retained jurisdiction to modify his child
support obligation under the Uniform Interstate Family
Support Act ("UIFSA"), as enacted in N.D.C.C. ch.
14-12.2. We further conclude the court did not err in
determining his child support obligation. We affirm.
2] At times relevant to these proceeding, Alexander Ferguson
and Samantha Wallace-Ferguson, now known as Samantha Oliver,
were active members in the United States military. The
parties divorced while they both were stationed in Germany in
2011. In their German divorce decree Wallace-Ferguson
received primary custody of their minor child, born in 2009.
In 2012, after Ferguson had been stationed at the Grand Forks
Air Force Base, the parties' divorce decree was
registered in the district court in Grand Forks.
Wallace-Ferguson was also later stationed in Turkey.
3] In 2012 and 2013, the district court in North Dakota
entered amended judgments, addressing issues of parenting
rights and responsibilities and child support.
Wallace-Ferguson was subsequently stationed in Texas. In July
2016, Ferguson was reassigned to a military base in South
Korea (Republic of Korea). On November 17, 2016,
Wallace-Ferguson moved the court to amend the judgment to
address transporting the child for parenting time. On
December 29, 2016, she filed another motion in the North
Dakota court seeking to modify Ferguson's child support
obligation. In response Ferguson requested the court to
transfer jurisdiction to Texas for Wallace-Ferguson's
pending motion to modify child support. Ferguson contended
the court no longer had jurisdiction because he had moved out
of the state and neither Wallace-Ferguson nor their child
lived in North Dakota.
4] After a January 30, 2017 hearing, the district court
entered a third amended judgment modifying language regarding
transporting the child for parenting time. In February 2017,
the court also entered an order retaining jurisdiction over
the matter. Ferguson moved the court to reconsider its
decision, again asserting a lack of jurisdiction, which the
court denied. On April 13, 2017, the court held a hearing on
Wallace-Ferguson's motion to review child support. Both
Ferguson and Wallace-Ferguson testified telephonically at the
hearing and presented evidence. The court subsequently
entered a fourth amended judgment increasing Ferguson's
child support obligation.
5] Ferguson argues the district court erred in exercising
continuing, exclusive jurisdiction in this case since he has
moved from North Dakota and neither Wallace-Ferguson nor the
minor child reside in the state. He contends the court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction under N.D.C.C. § 14-12.2-08
[UIFSA § 205 (2008)] to modify his child support
6] UIFSA is a uniform law first approved by the National
Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1992,
and revised in 1996, 2001, and 2008. See Smith
v. Baumgartner, 2003 ND 120, ¶ 15, 665 N.W.2d 12; 9
U.L.A. (pt. 1B) 150-57 (2017 Cum. Supp.). UIFSA governs,
among other things, the procedures for establishing,
enforcing, and modifying child support orders when more than
one state is involved. Smith, at ¶ 15. In 1995,
North Dakota enacted UIFSA, codified at N.D.C.C. ch. 14-12.2,
to replace the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of
Support Act ("RURESA"). See Smith, at
¶ 16; Henderson v. Henderson, 1999 ND 156,
¶ 8 n.1, 598 N.W.2d 490; see also 1995 N.D.
Sess. Laws ch. 157; 1997 N.D. Sess. Laws ch. 152; 2009 N.D.
Sess. Laws ch. 152. "Under UIFSA, the possibility of
multiple child support orders has been replaced by the
concept of a single controlling order under the court's
continuing exclusive jurisdiction." Henderson,
at ¶ 8 n.1; see N.D.C.C. §§
14-12.2-07 through 14-12.2-10. All fifty states have enacted
some form of UIFSA. Smith, at ¶ 15;
see Annot., Construction and Application of
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, 90 A.L.R.5th 1
7] To address Ferguson's jurisdictional argument, we
construe the 2008 version of UIFSA, which North Dakota
adopted in 2009, but became effective July 1, 2015.
See 2009 N.D. Sess. Laws ch. 152, § 73
("This Act becomes effective on the date the department
of human services certifies to the legislative council that
the Hague convention on the international recovery of child
support and other forms of family maintenance is ratified and
that the United States deposited its instrument of
ratification."); 2015 N.D. Sess. Laws ch. 126, § 13
(amending section 73 to state: "This Act becomes
effective on July 1, 2015."). Our standard for
construing statutes is well established:
Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which is fully
reviewable on appeal. Nelson v. Johnson, 2010 ND 23,
¶ 12, 778 N.W.2d 773. The primary purpose of statutory
interpretation is to determine the intention of the
legislation. In re Estate of Elken, 2007 ND 107,
¶ 7, 735 N.W.2d 842. Words in a statute are given their
plain, ordinary, and commonly understood meaning, unless
defined by statute or unless a contrary intention plainly
appears. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-02. If the language of a
statute is clear and unambiguous, "the letter of [the
statute] is not to be disregarded under the pretext of
pursuing its spirit." N.D.C.C. § 1-02-05. If the
language of the statute is ambiguous, however, a court may
resort to extrinsic aids to interpret the statute. N.D.C.C.
Zajac v. Traill Cty. Water Res. Dist., 2016 ND 134,
¶ 6, 881 N.W.2d 666.
8] Statutes are to be construed as a whole and harmonized to
give meaning to related provisions. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-07.
"We interpret uniform laws in a uniform manner, and we
may seek guidance from decisions in other states which have
interpreted similar provisions in a uniform law."
Matter of Bradley K. Brakke Trust, 2017 ND 34,
¶ 12, 890 N.W.2d 549 (quoting In re Estate of
Allmaras, 2007 ND 130, ¶ 13, 737 N.W.2d 612);
see also N.D.C.C. § 1-02-13 (uniform laws
construed to effectuate general purpose to make uniform the
laws of enacting states). "When we interpret and apply
provisions in a uniform law, we may look to official
editorial board comments for guidance." Brakke
Trust, at ¶ 12 (citing In re Estate of
Gleeson, 2002 ND 211, ¶ 7, 655 N.W.2d 69).
9] Section 14-12.2-08, N.D.C.C. [UIFSA § 205 (2008)],
provides for a district court's continuing, exclusive
jurisdiction to modify a child support order, stating in
1. A tribunal of this state that has issued a child
support order consistent with the law of this state has
and shall exercise continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to
modify its child support order if the order is the
controlling order and:
a. At the time of the filing of a request for
modification this state is the residence of the
obligor, the individual obligee, or the child for whose
benefit the support order is issued; or
b. Even if this state is not the residence of the obligor,
the individual obligee, or the child for whose benefit the
support order is issued, the parties consent in a record or
in open court that the tribunal of this state may ...